February 9th, 2024

Third Street Books Celebrates 20 Years in Business

The exterior of Third Street Books.  There is a bench out front along with planters and a rack of paperback books.

Since 2004, Third Street Books (320 NE 3rd Street) owner Sylla McClellan has been selling books through a myriad of changes. But one thing has stayed the same: “Book people are always book people. That hasn’t changed.” 

Though she’s seen businesses come and go along 3rd street, there are several other shops that, like Third Street Books, have been here for the long haul. “Businesses that survived both the 2008 recession and Covid just became stronger and smarter–even if you didn’t want to be,” she says.

The biggest change Third Street Books has seen over the past two decades is the advancements in technology to the world of publishing and book distribution. “We used to sit down with paper catalogs that would take two or three hours to go through, looking at each individual page. Then our book orders were put in manually. Now it’s all done digitally and is so much more streamlined.” These advancements have made it easier for even small publishing houses to find room on the bookshelf at independent bookshops like Third Street Books.

The other major change for the bookstore is the location. “In 2015, we moved into a building we own. That’s a huge change.” The bookstore originally occupied the space that now houses the antique mall a couple of doors down. Ironically, moving to a smaller space saw an increase in inventory. “In the other building we just weren’t being efficient with the space,” Sylla says. “Being in the current space, we utilize the space much more effectively.”

In addition to more books, there’s also a much higher volume of sales compared to earlier years. “That’s a testament to having engaged booksellers who are strong readers, as well as me being a more experienced book buyer. I had to learn over time what will sell and what won’t.” 

In addition to standard sections such as general literature, biography, mystery, and romance, Third Street Books has thriving sections for sci-fi/fantasy, spiritual/occult interests, history, cookbooks, a large kids’ section, Bibles and Christian inspiration, as well as a large selection of puzzles, cards, and gifts. 

“My goal is for this to be a community bookstore. The sections we have reflect what the community is asking for,” she says. “If a book sells, I’ll reorder it. If it doesn’t sell, I don’t reorder it.” On that note, Sylla has a piece of advice for community members who ask why there isn’t a particular genre in the store: “We’re always happy to special order anything we can. And if we see certain kinds of books requested often, we’ll take notice and we’ll order more in and create a section. That’s what being a community bookstore means.”

What’s next for Third Street Books?

During the 20th anniversary celebration, Third Street Books will be kicking off a monthly storytime with a different local celebrity each month. This will be a recurring event every Third Thursday. 

Additionally, the bookstore is developing their teacher outreach program, sprucing up their website with a new blog, and continuing to support literary events at Linfield and the McMinnville Library.

Final question for Sylla: How does 20 years feel? The answer: “Amazing and strange. Overall, pretty great.”

Join The Third Street Books 20th Anniversary Celebration! 

Details: Friday, February 16 through Sunday, February 18. All weekend long there are chances to win prizes, discounts, merch, and books. Some best selling books over the last 20 years will be 20% off.

Friday 2/16: Kick off the celebration Friday evening from 6pm-7pm for a sparking toast (bring your own cup to reduce plastic waste! Some cups will be on hand if needed.)

Saturday, 2/17: Storytime with Mayor Remy Drabkin at 1:30pm. Gift bags will be available for all kids in attendance. 

More information at https://www.thirdstreetbooks.com/20th-anniversary-celebration

A woman with long brown hair smiles.

Erin Hall is a writing instructor, small business marketing coach, and author of personal essays, short stories, and historical fiction. She lives and writes in Oregon Wine Country.